GEORGE TOWN, Nov 29 — The Penang Botanic Gardens must be maintained as a natural heritage park and a research and education facility instead of being turned into a commercialised tourist trap, Penang Consumers Association (CAP) said today.
CAP President Mohideen Abdul Kadir urged the state government to introduce more indigenous plants to the gardens especially those that are facing extinction and retain it as a botany research centre.
“It should not trade the beauty and tranquillity of the gardens and the welfare of the people for tourist dollars,” he said in a statement today criticising the Special Area Plan (SAP) for the Penang Botanic Gardens.
He said SAP seemed to be focused on developing the park for tourism instead of maintaining it as a natural heritage park for the recreational needs of Penangites.
“This is especially true in the case of charging an entrance fee for a public facility,” he said.
Mohideen likened this to the recent increase in assessment rates for homeowners in Penang.
He added that the state government has been “spending a lot of unnecessary monies in the name of development for the state” and is now placing the burden on ratepayers.
“The state should be more prudent and provide public facilities without charge as it has been already paid for by ratepayers,” he said.
Mohideen claimed that the SAP was gazetted with little public consultation in July this year and it was only revealed to the public this month.
He said the SAP proposed projects that will bring in a lot of visitors to the park, create more man-made structures and ultimately charge Penangites a fee to visit the gardens.
He pointed out that this will not only change the ambiance of the gardens but create more traffic congestion heading into the gardens and this will spill over to the already busy Jalan Utama and Jalan Gottlieb junction.
“A multi-storey car park to house cars will be developed when the authorities can't even provide Penangites with real affordable houses,” he said.
Mohideen said it was also against the state’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions under international treaties.
He said the proposed expansion of the gardens was to turn the road leading to the gardens into a “Malaysiana Boulevard” with pop-up kiosks and events.
“It is totally inappropriate to have a commercialised and noisy ‘pasar malam’ atmosphere at the entrance to the tranquil gardens,” he said.
He also objected against the proposal of developing a cable car station at the Botanic Gardens to connect to Penang Hill.
He said this will cause irreparable damage to the gardens and Penang Hill through the building of more hotels, bungalows for the rich and elites, cafes, amusement joints and access roads.
“For the sake of Penangites, leave the Botanic Gardens alone,” he said.